“Where are we going?” I finally asked as the taxi pulled to a stop. Darius decided this would be faster than the limo and would fit through wherever we’re going.
“But where?” I asked as I got out. It didn’t look like a posh place to eat at all so I was anticipating where we were going. Was it a secret restaurant, or was it disguised? All I could see were tall buildings.
He paid the taxi driver and beckoned for me to follow him.
“Is it a far walk?” I asked as we crossed the road. He laughed, shaking his head. Good, because I had more exercise than I needed this year in the past few days. The taxi ride was incredibly short so I was really confused what can be found here in the quieter streets of France.
“Ready?” Darius stopped walking suddenly that I ended up colliding into him when he turned around.
I rubbed my head, looking up at him. “Yea, I guess,” I said, not liking the look in his eyes. What did he plan after all? Please don’t tell me he was going to make me eat snails again.
“Do I need to close my eyes or something?” I asked when we continued to stand there. He furrowed his eyebrows and tilted his head to the side, looking confused.
“Why?” he asked.
I shook my head. Of course, Darius didn’t know the art of surprises. Well, at least I didn’t have to close my eyes or wear a blindfold and then get a shitty surprise at the end. James was perfect at failing in surprises.
“Never mind. Let’s go,” I said. He smiled, turning around and placing a hand on my back to guide me forward.
I didn’t let my hopes up. James always managed to do it and then took me to McDonald’s or somewhere stupid. His idea of the perfect ‘date’ was cheap and quick and I wasn’t someone who ate fast food on a regular basis. And so when I turned around the corner, I was surprised.
It was safe to say my jaw dropped as I looked at the lane that seemed to go on for a solid kilometre.
My first thought was, Do I have to walk that? But then I looked at all the multicoloured carts, some owners wearing traditional flag colours while the others were dressed up and then there were just normal ones in a chef suit.
I looked at Darius who seemed pretty happy with his choice, and I would be, too, if you just got a reaction like that.
“Wow,” was all I could say as the aisle was lit up by lanterns that were hanging between the apartments.
“Every single type of street food you can find in France is in this lane,” he said.
“Even snails?” I asked.
“No. Those can be found in the bushes.”
We walked up to the first cart where a young woman was standing and smiling. There was an assortment of crepes being made by another man and the smell was sweet and intoxicating.
And just like that, the journey began from one cart to another. I made sure I only sampled each offering and tried not to devour it or there was no way I was going to finish this aisle.
It seemed the foods mostly associated with France that everyone knew about was at the start of the lane: crepes, baguettes, snails that I avoided, frog legs which I also skipped. And then as we got further away, there were more foods such as ‘French kebabs’, roasted cashews, panini and everything.
“I don’t think I can eat anymore,” I groaned as I looked at the quiche in my hand.
Darius laughed. “You didn’t even eat much.”
“But the smells filled me up,” I said. After all the oil and grease came the sweets and then more hot food and that itself made me no longer hungry.
“Can we take that to go?” asked Darius. The man nodded, grabbing a white box and placing some in. Darius took the box and we walked slowly to the next one.
I stopped half way, realising something. “We didn’t pay them!” I digged into the pocket, only to realise it wasn’t my jacket and my wallet wasn’t there.
Darius laughed, shaking his head and spinning me back around. “I already took care of that.”
There was a phone in the pocket and remembered there was another one in my back pocket.
“Oh wait,” I said, stopping again. I dug it out and held it for him. “Your phone. You left it back home .”
Calling it home felt different now. For some reason, it didn’t sound weird when I said it. It felt more natural.
“I still don’t get why you need three.”
He took the phoneand quickly scrolled through the messages. Surprisingly, he put it away rather than replying. “It keeps things easier. Like if the family phone rings, there is a ninety percent chance it’s my parents and I wouldn’t pick up,” he explained, winking at me and walking.
It took me a moment before I found my legs and trudged after him. The next few stalls, we just took food to go since we were both too full to eat and he told me to save the small place left in my stomach for the last cart.
“I wonder if Adrian got home alright,” I said as we waited for the lady to pack it up. By now we were both carrying a bag with food, and I was sure Adrian was going to devour this when we got back. Knowing him, he was probably waiting in our bedroom for us.
“He should. We left the limo there for him.”
“But it’s Adrian,” I said, shaking my head. Darius shrugged, seemingly not worried. But then again they grew up together so he probably knew him better than I did. Yet, I understand Adrian. I was like him in a way. Normal. Till we saw something that we never got to do as a child and then we became children, excited by the simplest things, moody at the ramdomest thing only because as a kid I was never allowed to be moody.
Blame my mother for that, for teaching her little girl to never show her feelings.
“How come you never told me you didn’t like seafood?”
I looked up at him as he leaned against the cart. I shrugged. I didn’t know why.
“It was rude to complain. You sucked up and ate it. Well, at least that’s what mum said.”
She knew I didn’t like seafood from a very young age, but it didn’t stop her from ordering it all the time. I got used to the fact that people would order it and if I didn’t like it, I would just sit there and eat it.
“You should have told me,” Darius insisted.
“Well, you know now.” I took the box and walked on. We had to skip a few carts because we didn’t have enough space in our hands. For once I forgot I was with some rich business man. It just seemed like a nice evening.
Till his phone rang.
“So, which phone is that?” I asked curiously, realising it wasn’t the one in his coat pocket. He slipped his hand into his left pocket, taking a phone out.
“It’s a normal ringtone. That would be business,” he said.
“They all sound like normal tones to me,” I said, shrugging. He switched his phone off and put it back into his pocket.
“You’re not going to take that?”
“They all have a different variation in the tone,” he explained.
I rolled my eyes. Of course, only he would be able to tell the difference between three similar sounding ring tones. “And it’s outside of working hours,” he added, taking out his other phone and switching that off as well.
“Do you want to switch off this one too?” I asked, amused, pulling the one out from my pocket. He took the phone, turning it in his hands before placing it back in my pocket.
“Nope ,that’s family. I don’t switch that one off.”
I stood there for a moment, staring after him as he walked to the next cart and spoke to the man there. He looked to his side and looked around for me when he realised I wans’t beside him.
“You coming, Aluminium?” he asked when he saw me.
I hurried up to him and snapped, “You’re never going to stop calling me that, are you?”
“Nope,” he said, popping the ‘p’ and making me bite back my smile at how childish he looked. His hands were in his pockets as he looked at the man do whatever he was doing. Wait, didn’t we already have crepes?
I said to Darius, “Good. I have an annoying name for you, too.”
He looked up at me, raising an eyebrow.
“Yep,” I said, popping the ‘p’ like he did. He gave me a half smile as he shook his head.
“Alright, let’s hear it,” he said.
“Dairy, like cows,” I said, hiding my smile as I thanked the man and walked off. I realised there was only one cart left and felt sad. It was over already?
I looked back at him to see him staring at me in confusion and then turned to the cart driver, saying “Dairy?” in annoyance. Perfect. I didn’t want him to like the name.
“Hey, Dairy, you coming?” I called, laughing at the scowl he gave me.
Darius and Dairy. It sounded more relevant than Aluminium and Ivory, which had nothing in common.
“Dairy?” he asked as he walked up to me. I shrugged and realised the irony of the last cart and burst out laughing.
“Ice cream. Really?” I asked as I tried to catch my breath from laughing. Darius looked annoyed himself.
“Rose said you love ice cream. Dairy, huh? Can’t you come up with something better like munchkin or something? No, not munchkin. Something manlier. What the hell is Dairy?”
“What the hell is Aluminium? And yes, I love ice cream,” I said, talking to the lady and ignoring his mutterings and tried to find the right flavor to try. There were so many. In the end I got a three-scoop ice cream with bubblegum, chocolate and guava; weird combination but I was dying to try guava and bubblegum and chocolate in case they tasted horrible.
“Are you going to get one?” I asked, secretly hoping he would.
He waved to the lady. “Just give me one, any flavour is fine.”
I tried the bubblegum and was shocked to realise that it wasn’t too sweet and sugar-overloaded like I thought. It was perfect. It was a unique flavor I couldn’t describe.
“This is amazing. Want to try?” I asked. Darius looked pissed and I shrugged taking a bite of the chocolate and smiling to myself.
Nickname was accomplished.
“Butterscotch?” asked the lady.
“Yea, that’s fin – what?” asked Darius, seeing my face.
“Don’t get butterscotch,” I said. He narrowed his eyes and then shrugged. “Just get me vanilla,” he said.
I bit back a laugh at that and he gave me another look.
“Vanilla is white, right?” I asked as the lady gave it to him and he nodded.
“Dairy is eating Dairy,” I said, laughing out loud as I started walking through the rest of the lane. I could practically feel his scornful look burning through my back and then heard his footsteps catch up to mine.
We walked in silence, or more forced to since I couldn’t stop laughing and dropped the bag a few times, so many times that Darius got annoyed and held them all for me.
It was a good five minutes before I caught my breath and realised half the ice cream had melted down my hand and looked around for something to wipe it to.
“Don’t you dare wipe it on my coat,” he said and I started laughing again.
“Why not then? You can wear dairy everywhere you go,” I said, laughing at my pathetic joke till he shoved a handkerchief in my face and I wiped my hand and wrapped it around the cone so I wouldn’t get more all over me.
“Why didn’t you want butterscotch?” He asked and all laughter was wiped off my face. He noticed I stopped walking. He was eating his ice cream as he turned to look at me.
“Eh,” I hesitated. Do it, Ivory. You’ve already waited too long.
“Well,” I began before my courage deserted me again. I ignored that the guava also started melting, making it a purple mix on my hands and ruining his handkerchief as well.
“My ex liked that flavor,” I said quickly and then decided I might as well come out with it all, and added, “And he is James so I think it’s an incredibly bad idea to do that business deal ’cause he’s a prick.”
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